Who needs to shop at a Dollar Store when there’s a surplus auction held every Friday night in the fire hall? When these auctions first came to our town a few years ago they were referred to as “Christmas” auctions. The advertisements highly encouraged people to attend and get their Christmas shopping done early and at a cheap price. The auctions were super crowded and frankly not a lot of fun. Now that the novelty of the Christmas auctions has worn off, the auctions are simply referred to as surplus auctions.
At most any typical surplus auction, there are a lot of food items. Most of these items are near the expiration date or just odd brands that no one has heard of. Early on I’ve learned to be careful of what I bid on. I won’t bid on food that will soon expire nor perishable items. I love to bid on off brands that contain few ingredients. For example, dark chocolate candy bars that have chocolate and cocoa listed within the first three ingredients, is just as good as a Hershey dark chocolate bar. I carry a calculator with me. Sometimes the auctioneer will auction five packages of an item at once and you have to do a quick calculation to figure out a good deal.
Surplus auctions also carry a lot of interesting odds and ends…wrapping paper, bath towels, T-shirts, socks, toys, puzzles, dishes, etc. It’s important to thoroughly check out the items and decide how much you’re willing to bid. Most items actually are in very good condition, but come in boxes that are super dusty, dented or torn.
Going to our weekly auctions is like going to church. Everyone seems to have his or her favorite spot to sit. If you’re new to the auction, you better wait until the regulars claim their seats. Just last week Mama Lewis chewed out a young woman for taking her seat. With her hand on her hip she began to tell the girl that she’s been coming to these auctions for the past five years and NOBODY ever takes her seat. The poor girl; she stood in the back until the auction was well underway.
I prefer to sit near the back right corner. Most of the families with kids sit near the front and it drives me crazy. Either the kids are crying because they’re bored or because their parents won’t bid on stuff for them. Back in my little corner is a retired school teacher, one of my friends and an elderly man who loves to buy trinkets for his wife who is in the nursing home.
Because I do calculate costs and set limits on my bidding, I feel that I do very well at surplus auctions. I usually come home with a few things, and if not, at least it’s an evening of entertainment. At the last couple of auctions I was able to scarf up paper products, such as toilet paper, paper towels and paper plates for really good prices. Last week I ended up with enough laundry detergent to easily get me through the next two or three years!
I do get concern for folks who get caught up in the bidding frenzy. Many times the food items sell for more than what they could buy it for at Save-A-Lot which is a local discount grocery store. I think that they just get so excited and the auctioneer makes it sound like such a great deal, that they just can’t help but bid. It also concerns me that a lot of the food items are pure junk food. Our nation has a serious problem with obesity and buying loads of junk food at auction is not helping.
As I mentioned, sometimes it’s worth attending the weekly auctions just for the fun. When there are lots of a particular item, the auctioneer will ask the top bidder how many of the item the person wants. Then it’s open to the back bidders to indicate how many of the item they want as well, at the winning bid price. IF there are still items left then other people can raise their hand and state how many they want. A couple of weeks ago there was a huge carton of an off-brand cheese puffs. There had to be at least 100 bags in the carton. The top bidder took 20 of the bags for $1.25 each. The back bidders indicated how many they wanted and there were probably 30 bags left. When the auctioneer opened it up for anyone to purchase a bag, lots of hands went up. When the auctioneer got down to one bag, two moms had their hands up. A handler was showing the bag, and one of the moms snatched it! She said that it was hers. The auctioneer was a little stunned because handlers always deliver the items. People don’t go up front to get the items. Within seconds, the other mom grabbed the bag as well and said it was hers. You guessed it! As both of them tugged on the bag, it ripped open and cheese puffs went all over the place. The auctioneer was furious, but most of us couldn’t help but laugh. A fight over a bag of cheese puffs. Really! When everything settled down, it was agreed upon that the two ladies would have to split the cost.
If you’re looking for a good deal on everyday items or food items, then it’s definitely worth checking out a surplus auction. Decide in advance what you think a fair price is and stick with it. Don’t get caught up in the excitement of bidding. Or, if you just need an evening of entertainment, you might just find it at your local weekly auction!